Monday, June 30, 2014

"Someday, Someday, Maybe" by Lauren Graham

"My deadline is here...and it isn't even a tough call to say whether or not I've achieved what I came for--- no agent, no job, and as of tonight, no boyfriend ---or whatever it is a person who says he loves you but ignores you in public should be called. ...How'd it get this far and not go pop!?"

Franny Banks has six months left on her self-imposed deadline to make something of herself and her struggling theatrical career in New York City.

The mid-90s is awash with change and popular culture is asserting itself in the strangest ways: cool people are sporting the Rachel, one's Filofax is how daily life is recorded and Windows 95 is a must if you want to apply for any sort of secretarial work.  Into this, Franny goes on auditions, dates men who are wrong for her, attends acting classes and tries to figure out who she is and how to become the person with the je ne sais quoi that will no longer land her the perfect agent but the role of a lifetime.

It is Franny's insecurity and her vulnerable, quirky, Poptart voice which dazzles in this competent and snort-diet-coke-out-your-nose offering from talented actress Lauren Graham.  Here, Graham obviously imparts her wisdom and knowledge as a successful actress but also her inherent intelligence.  The book is winsome, a snapshot of a culturally significant time and a buoyant and bubbly slice of life from a decade hallowed by nostalgia for many.

One of my favourite aspects of the novel---besides being given a sneaky glimpse into Franny's FiloFax life and recordings of her auditions, shopping lists and cheese puff addiction, were the inserts of scripts that Franny was auditioning for (brilliant: soap operas! zombies!) and the taste of New York through Franny's eyes.  Franny at The Phantom of the Opera is one of my favourite sequences in any book of late.

And some quotes:

"I'm enclosed on either side of a sort of Dan-tent"

"....Dan kissing while Stockard Channing gazes down on us, her pastel pencil red lips smiling in approval"

Speaking of the Phantom chandelier: "When the audience bursts into thunderous applause, I'm swept along for a moment against my will, if by nothing else but the feeling of being part of something---whatever that something is."

"By mistakenly acting like someone with confidence, I found the real personality I always hoped was buried beneath the other one--- the one I used to have
--full of doubt and unattractively low self-esteem. By accidentally acting like the me I wanted to be, I've convinced someone I'm actually that person and I've nearly convinced myself."

"I can almost see the letters that formed the words suspended in the air between us. Part of me wants to bat them away and watch them fall to the ground by making a joke or saying something deflective, but I also want to leave them floating there to savour the compliment for just a second more."

"The moral of the story is---stand up for what you believe even if its a silly technicality that means losing a job."

"The only thing you have that isn't in the hands of a dozen other people is your sense of what's right for you."

Friday, June 27, 2014

'All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes' by Betsy St. Amant

First off, how cute is the title? and the cover?  Tres cute, right? I love Betsy. We both hang out in this amazing Gilmore Girls facebook group where we collectively watch episodes and talk about Luke Danes, the Gilmores and...well...basically lots of fun stuff. Thus, I was thrilled when she signed a two book contract for Zondervan and those of us already initiated with her fun, buoyant voice would have the opportunity to explore her writer's range a little more.

Lucas is in love with his longtime friend Kat, Kat is in love with her longtime friend Lucas; but it will take a reality Food Network cupcake competition to move their relationship beyond the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry filling of Bayou Bend and to the tantalizing and confectionary world of true love.

This is a sweet romp of chicklit suitable for a summer afternoon. I read it on vacation with a stash of jelly bellys by my side and may I recommend something sweet nearby?  You must have something sweet nearby. St. Amant excels at innovative descriptions of sumptuously decorated cupcakes.

The other aspect that really sets this novel apart is St. Amant's obvious research into the world of reality tv shows and cooking competitions.  The excitement and behind-the-scenes descriptions of Cupcake Combat were welcome here.   Kat even drags her friend/long-time crush along for the exhilarating ride.

A sweet, predictable romance with fondant twists told by a pen that competently works within the comfortable lines of contemporary romance.

Will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth: especially if your taste runs along the lines of a blue-eyed high school football coach.

This book releases in September so get it on your pre-order list now

Find Betsy on the web
Follow Betsy on twitter

I received this advanced copy from Zondervan via Netgalley

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Best 5 'Due South' episodes

Bravo ran out of Flashpoint episodes to re-run, it would seem, because they are re-running Due South.  

So when you're eating dinner and channel surfing and you're like: Where's Flashpoint?You can have Due South instead.

Rachel's Top Five Due South Episodes (note: there were four seasons of Due South; but we only care about the first two )

1.) North  So Benny was shot by Ray (accidentally ) while in pursuit of femme fatale Victoria Metcalf (Haggis and company use a lot of popular tropes) and to make it up to him, Ray escorts Benny to the Canadian wilderness to help re-build his father's exploded cabin.  Instead, their little plane is hi-jacked, Benny is blinded and paralyzed and Ray and Diefenbaker ( the wolf ) have to figure out how to get them out of the wilderness....with Benny still intent on being a good mountie and finding his man.  I mean, obviously, the chemistry between Gross and Marciano is pitch-perfect --- but here it is even more so: especially when it comes to Gross' comic performance as a man a little loopy from a head injury. Probably the best sophomore season starter ever

2.)  Manhunt I love this one. This is just great writing and great Canadian stereotyping and great comedy. This is Leslie Nielsen's first appearance as Sergeant Buck Frobisher, RCMP  and together he and Benny and Ray have to hunt down an old criminal. The moments where Benny and Buck attempt to saddle up outside the Canadian consulate and Buck falls off the horse so they have to take a cab? That's just genius.  Paul Haggis wrote this (obviously).

3.) The Man Who Knew Too Little As a grown-up and a writer I appreciate things that the show did very well.  It inserted cultural stereotypes from both sides of the border, and nodded to each country's history; but it also excelled at characterization.   Big time.  There are so many canonical preferences made that add to this kind of multi-dimensional mythos.  I mean the premise itself is so far fetched; but the characters leap off the page (erm...screen). The show is at its best when it plays on the tenets iconic to the leads.  In this episode, Ray's first love, his 1971 Buick Riviera plays a huge role.   It becomes a kind of pseudo-character. Odd, because it's a car. Benny is commissioned to take prisoner ( and pathological liar) Ian MacDonald across the border to Windsor while Ray wants to high-tail it to a detective's convention in Florida. Unfortunately, Benny needs transportation.  So together, with Diefenbaker, they take Ian on the most monumental cross-border trip ever.... pursued by the Canadian mob and enlisting the help of the most Canuckiest Canucks in the history of Canuckdom.  It's smart and fast.

4.)Bird in the Hand  Benny has the responsibility of keeping his father's killer protected from gun smugglers; but emotions and thoughts for revenge run high. This is a particularly Toronto-y episode: the Waverly Hotel, the Distillery district; but also incorporates the elements that make the show work particularly well: lots of Benny and Ray banter ( in that we-love-each-other-to-death way) and lots of throw back to Benny's relationship with his superman mountie father.  It's also just funny. If it's on, you should watch it. I mean Dean McDermott is an amazing Constable Turnbull.

5.) The Deal  This is the first time that we meet Frankie Zuko: Ray's mafioso nemesis.  I honestly think I had no idea what the Mafia was until I saw this episode as a kid. Informative.  A thief steals money from a church poor box in Zuko's hood ( just your run-of-the-mill Corktown Toronto church in actuality) and Benny and Ray track him down using Benny's Sherlockian sense of deduction and the clue of a: "Bindlestitch!" "Benny, you have got to stop swearing in Eskimo."   I particularly like the Ray-centric episodes and the show does well at balancing the two of them.  When Ray confronts Zuko in the gym during a one-on-one basketball game and beats the crap outta him, I was like: go Ray.

Vote for your swoon-worthy hero

The Novel Crossing gals had a lot of fun picking our Swoon-Worthy CBA heroes over the past several weeks and now you can vote for your top five.

For a recap:

Rachel's (ME!) heroes

Kara's heroes

Rel's heroes

Amy's heroes

Shannon's heroes 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How I'm using Novellas to bridge book-writing time

This is really strange and I bet I’m the only person in the world who does this; but hear me out here.  Before diving head first into the actual writing of my second book in a proposed trilogy, I have started writing a novella....

A novella that takes place in the period between books 1 and 2 but is very separate from.   The other day I mentioned how I was playing and practicing with different points of view. This novella idea has given the opportunity to play around with a specific end goal in sight. Moreover, it allows me to keep my characters and world refined while I inch at research for my second book.
Paget illustration from the Five Orange Pips
I am finding it remarkably helpful.   I am fine-tuning my writing ( every time I write I get better at things: this comes from feedback, this comes from practice, this comes from actually completing projects I start ) and spending time with characters I missed while allowing me to feel that amazing, whirling-dervish feeling you get when their dialogue sparks and crackles and they begin speaking on their own.   To add, more and more publishers are introducing writers through novellas and series through novellas and having read quite a few of them ( Deanna Raybourn's, for example, Sarah Thomas' most recent) I have familiarized myself with their limitations of word count.

For my genre ( kinda detective story: hefty on the relationship aspect), novellas are a prime way to meet characters in different situations that are still authentic to my mapped trilogy timeline; while loosening a few ends that allows me to play on a smaller canvas.   Doyle’s short stories are a massive inspiration for this.  You got just enough action, just enough character development, and just enough Sherlock spotlight to keep you going.  Also, Doyle was able to marginalize his action and still pack an emotional punch.  While staying within the rubrics of short story metric, he still penned The Adventure of the Three Garridebs, for example and The Final Problem: both which are quite robust given the limitations of their word count.

So it’s a strange way to do things: write novellas that, like my trilogy, may never see the public light of day; but it’s exercise, it’s keeping in shape so that when I do mount full-on work of book II  (research is in embryo and so is outlining), all of it will be crisp and fresh in my mind.

My novella: Jem and Merinda investigate a murder at a policeman's baseball league game! awesome because i write while watching my Jays :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

on p.o.v.

Playing is fun. 

I've been playing with the characters I have missed since finishing the novel that introduced them to me.

And itching to start a second novel and continue on with them because I miss them.

I mean, technically, the book may never be contracted so the first book may not exist to anyone but me and the few people who have read it; but that doesn't mean I don't want to continue their story because I... I want to find out what happens to them.

danny castellano gif for no reason but that he's wearing glasses
I kind of know. When I presented my agent with my proposal I outlined the bare bones of books two and three: but that is just plot. That is just setting. That's like ice cream without the option of sprinkles.

So I am playing. My first book just naturally fell into two p.o.v's: One first person (my darling Jem, my Watson as it were) and third person (which worked to extend the scope of action with my lovely muckraker Ray).

In the second and third novels planned I need to expand the scope a little more. Half of book two takes place in Chicago and half of book three takes place with Merinda ( my lady detective ) at the barracks in Halifax.  I need my Merinda to have some action outside of Jem's sphere and with a completely new character I am introducing ( yes, he's a mountie. Yes, his name is Benedict ---though he goes by Benny) and I need Ray to be removed from both my lady detectives in Chicago until they can hop State-side and catch up with him.

I am playing with voice: I am trying to see if I can add a third person p.o.v for Merinda while maintaining Jem's first person and Ray's third. It's interesting. Often times I think, especially 'cause the pieces fell so easily in book one, can I get away with this? and of course I can-- I remind myself--because they are my characters and it is my book.

Authors do this multiple p.o.v thing all the time. The typical CBA way to do things is usually third person deep: rotating between hero and heroine.  Cathy Gohlke's Saving Amelie and Siri Mitchell's Love's Pursuit are two expert examples of multiple p.o.v.s being done very well....and very surprisingly. I think they are striking because they just seem so natural.  Jem and Ray's voices are natural for me to write in and they will be our guides in subsequent books; but now I am infusing some Merinda. Seeing where she takes me.  Again, plot wise and character wise, I have a solid inkling: but I am learning it doesn't have to be perfect or scrawled in stone. I am playing with her: in letters ( the epistolary thing can definitely give breadth and scope to extended plot lines and settings), in reports ( thank goodness I came up with a journalistic underscore to the whole thing. It's very useful) , in first (she's a little brash. I must admit.  She's very hard in first and I think a little too grating---like if Nero Wolfe were given the helm and Archie slinked off to the side) so over the weekend I played with her in third. Scenes and sequences that may never make it into a finished product but that are the equivalent of stretching or warming up. 

Exposition, yes; but experimentation? also, yes! one of the most liberating parts of the whole writing thing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

When we Were on Fire by Addie Zierman

I grew up a Pentecostal minister's daughter. My life was youth conventions and Sunday services and orchestra practices, Sunday school and camping trips and Wednesday night Bible Study and Friday night youth groups. I love Christ; but I sometimes hate Christians ---this was a hyperbolized, slipshod statement I would throw around to speak to the fact that a lot of His followers and their traditions and rituals gave me the creeps. But I never gave up on God. I always knew that at the heart was Jesus and if Jesus was there then all of this zealot fringe could be stripped away to expose His purpose at the core.

This. Zealot. Fringe. All of this permeated with a sort of zealous energy exacerbated by the commercial success of things like WWJD and See you at the Pole and purity rings, the evangelical counterpart to anything musically popular and the zest of marketing collateral---SWAG--- with heavy acronyms, drenched in the 90s passion for symbol and emblem: loud, florescent, proud.
But we were teenagers! We were kids. We hadn't figured out or own identities and it was so easy to conform to the evangelical tropes flounced at us in colour and light. Teenagers who loved hyped euphoria so gymnasiums full of swaying youths, light percolating from the semi-dark, staccato percussion of the thrum of drum beats of worship songs, the rousing call to actions, the heavenly tongues and spirit slayings were a spiritual mosh pit.  It was a world I was sure I should want to fit into; but not one I completely understood.

Addie Zierman has captured this world pitch-perfectly. A girl unsure of herself, desperate to be popular, desperate to conform to the Jesus Freak high that permeated her friends and her older boyfriend. She wanted so much to be in love…. And so much to love… .and so much to be on fire….

The book in its early incarnation was titled after Addie’s blog “How to Talk Evangelical” and if you speak the vernacular of 1990s hyper-high neon-lit evangelical craze, then this book will be a cocoon. A safe space. Addie is brave enough to speak for those of us who have gone on and settled down ( I don’t identify Pentecostal anymore and have left the rather more charismatic publically-spirit filled notions of my upbringing behind ) and tucked some of the more pronouncedly and beguilingly..erm…unique tenets of our past in our pockets.

She parades them and with this, a vessel full of memory and confusion and insecurities, for me, was overturned.
She speaks to the hopes and dreams ---in vivid detail—I am sure many of us young, spirited teenagers yearned to live out. A high school where being a Christian was the norm and the language was spoken fluidly --- no translation required . “If they came to Jesus,”, she ruminates during See you at the Pole, “jthese people in this school, none of that would matter anymore. We would all speak a common language. “Hey, how is your walk with God?.” They would say an would be asking me and I would be able to tell them.”

I identified so acutely with Zierman’s reminiscences that I felt that she was speaking to me on a deep level I keep hidden from my current Christian walk. I don’t retreat into thinking about some of the rituals of my background. I am lucky enough to have remained a Christian while removing myself from several of the puzzle pieces that---with me---just didn’t fit—when it came to belonging to a charismatic denomination and a fire-filled generation.

When she began to speak about her fear of being called to the mission field, I thought she had stolen my Precious Moments diary from my hand. For this, fair reader, tied with becoming a minister’s wife, were my greatest fears as a youth:
“Already, you feared that God might want to send you to those places. You’d been in Sunday school long enough to know how the story goes: the voice of God comes down from the sky and asks you to go and where you don’t want to go, to do what you don’t want to do. And you have to do it anyway.”

I am a firm believer that one steps into their faith when they leave their home and home congregation. Only then can a young person fully decide whether they believe their religion for themselves, or whether it is a product of tradition and obeying one’s parents. Zierman’s life and her incendiary relationship with God becomes more complicated when she attends university and subsequently when she marries young and settles on her own. Indeed, a missions excursion to China triggers an under-the-surface anxiety that rifts her relationship with God and also to her husband. In the last half of the book, Zierman’s candid recollections and bold extrapolation of every sinful thought and act are paraded and splayed like a deck of cards. She is, in short, remarkably brave to dig so deep into herself: using pronouns so that we readers who may feel the same way can, yes, appropriate these feelings; but also identify and most wonderfully cocoon ourselves in the safety of sameness.

Alcohol, straying into the tepid waters of an almost-affair and a rail against church institutions are how the raging fires, now strange embers, are settled and Addie must discover what parts of herself are hers and what parts are the bad fruits of an environment she was pressed into that she must cut away.
She removes religion from faith and her walk and herself and her marriage are stronger because of it.
And while she journeys she never bashes the faith, she never strays from God. Instead, so like me, she wrestles with the human extensions of His house on earth.

I read this book in one sitting, absolutely dazzled by its candor--- feeling lucky and nostalgic, bemused and safe.

My one disappointment with the book was the amount of swearing. I can’t help but feel that Zierman has ostracized part of what could be a potentially larger readership. We’re not talking a word or two for emphatic example, we’re talking several f-bombs. She does explain on the Convergent blog this decision and I commend her for mulling over it and defending it; but there are people I would recommend this book to that I feel I cannot due to the explicit language.
It is  a case of knowing one’s audience and while Zierman certainly understands her readership in so many ways, she bars, I believe, an even wider readership with an unnecessary (in my opinion) infusion of language.

We speak Evangelical, yes, but we need not speak in f-bombs to do it

(but gosh, the “feeling led” the prayer warriors the Christianese KILLS me. I laughed so hard ) Also her treatise on sex, marriage and being born-again are so spot on!


“Remember that first jarring moment you understood that the world was divided? Remember Amy Grant? She was the darling of evangelicalism, the first contemporary Christian musician to score a platinum record and show the world that evangelicals could achieve excellence in the arts” (this quote for Sonja)

“When he talked about faith, he used words like revival, words like spiritual battles and prayer warrior and sacrifice. He signed his e-mails and letters with the phrase Consumed by the Call”

“You sing, one song ending, someone starting another, worship strung together like lights on a string until the last song ends and the sound of the final note is so perfect, so absolute, that you all somehow know it is time to turn the motor back on, go back in.”

“I was so tired. I’d spent the last four years defending a faith I was sure was being attacked” ├čremember when you realized that your faith wasn’t being attacked? All the peer pressure and hatred that boiled up in the words of Christians I never experienced in high school. I was fine. But I had my armour on anyways. Gosh. What a world.

“And it occurs to you that the real work of faith has nothing to do with saying the right words. It has to do with redefining them, chipping away at the calcified crust until you find the simple truth at the heart of it all. Jesus.”

 I received this book from WaterBrook/Convergent 

In which I talk about Luke Danes ....

I am part of the Gilmore Guys series over at Melissa Tagg's blog rambling about how Luke Danes is kinda the best person in the world.

go see....

Melissa created this awesome instagram ad. sigh,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Appalachian Serenade by Sarah Loudin Thomas

This novella was just released in anticipation of Miracle in a Dry Season which debuts later this summer. I am very excited as I love Sarah (she even taught me how to say Appalachian properly at ACFW last year) and I know she has a successful writing career ahead of her!

Here, we are introduced to the picturesque Appalachian town of Wise, West Virginia and given a glimpse into the quirky and colourful cast of characters who will populate Miracle including heroine Perla's widowed aunt, Delilah and shopkeeper Robert.

Appalachian Serenade is a treatise on yearning. Free from an unhappy marriage, Delilah confronts the empty space inside herself that always wanted children. Now, 34 and without romantic prospects, she has returned from Chicago to Wise to live with her sister , her niece Perla, and her brother-in-law in an attempt to patch up a fragmented life.  One in which the deepest desires of her heart seem too far from reach.

Robert is immediately attracted to Delilah, remembering her from years earlier. A mature bachelor without even a nephew to carry on the store, Robert has long avoided marriage due to his inability to have a family. Now, with his growing attraction to Delilah--whom he hires to be his assistant-- he is confronted with a palpable realization of a dream for a wife and home that might still evade him.

This is a very character driven snapshot ---a patch of quilt, as it were, that will be sewn into the greater story as a whole.  The sample chapters of Miracle  are included at the end of the novella.

I was really stricken by the story especially because it came from a place of a yearning unfulfilled. As well, a piece of woman so circumscribed to believe that motherhood equals fulfilment as a female.  It hurt me to see Delilah confronted by her belief that this was a  woman's main goal.  Luckily,  the story is also a rumination on how God can patch up families from the most unlikely of places and Delilah and Robert are able to take a step toward an unconventional happy ending; but one which will fulfil them anyways.

This was a sweet taste of Thomas' straightforward and charming style which readers will enjoy settling into like a creaky swing on a porch.  There's part of this nostalgic flavour that makes me feel like I'm finding home....

A few quotes:

"Yes, Perla should dream her dreams now, before she learned how rarely life lived up to dreams."

"It tasted like childhood"

"That's a ....regionally specific compliment."

"Sometimes God gives you strength to do without because, for whatever reason, he knows it's better for you not to have your heart's desire"

"If marriage were only about having children, I think women would have given up the institution long ago."

"You need a man who will challenge you, who will encourage you to be better than you are. A man who compliments you and loves on you is a good thing, but the real prize is a man who tells you when you're wrong and when you're taking the easy way out."

"Maybe that's how I'll know I've found true love--when I find a man who will eat burnt biscuits and dry pork chops."

"You're my heart, I'm not sure how it happened but if I were to lose you, this secondhand heart I have beating in my chest might go on, but my family would never be complete."

visit Sarah Loudin Thomas on the web 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Litfuse Blog Tour: the Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart

From the publisher:
For Nell Marchwold, bliss is seeing the transformation when someone gets a glimpse in the mirror while wearing one of her creations and feels beautiful. Nell has always strived to create hats that bring out a woman's best qualities. She knows she's fortunate to have landed a job as an apprentice designer at the prominent Oscar Fields Millinery in New York City. Yet when Nell's fresh designs begin to catch on, her boss holds her back from the limelight, claiming the stutter she's had since childhood reflects poorly on her and his salon.

But it seems Nell's gift won't be hidden by Oscar's efforts. Soon an up-and-coming fashion designer is seeking her out as a partner of his 1922 collection. The publicity leads to an opportunity for Nell to make hats in London for a royal wedding. There, she sees her childhood friend, Quentin, and an unexpected spark kindles between them. But thanks to her success, Oscar is determined to keep her. As her heart tugs in two directions, Nell must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for her dream, and what her dream truly is

The Hatmaker’s Heart has some great things going for it.

First and foremost, it is infused with the language of the era and the phrasing is pitch-perfect as is the dialogue .

Secondly, the research. OH MY GOODNESS! The research…

The amount of time that must have gone into shaping the world of a high-end millinery was a joy to behold. Ribbons and baubles, adornments and flourishing flounces and touches, I was engaged in Nell’s world. Moreover, I liked her journey as a woman who was trying so hard to create her own hat line, and thus, stand up in a male-dominated workforce, despite the efforts of her employer, Oscar Fields, to keep her from making a separate name for herself.

There is a bit of a renaissance of 1920s fiction in the CBA so Stewart’s unique slant is a welcome one. But what the novel excelled at in research and originality, it just missed the mark on in pacing and romance.  Nell’s romantic interest seems a bit of an after-thought and the romantic thread of the novel read like a string that was added in order to give an otherwise straight historical a romantic edge. 
I preferred Nell’s friendship with one of the other hat workers as a possible romantic slant.

The novel, for me, took quite a while to find its pace and footing and while always sprinkled with interesting historical tidbits, was challenged at holding my attention. In short, this was a read I found easy to put down.

Stewart is a competent storyteller and her passion for the time period and this esoteric hat research is pretty unparalleled.  

Thursday, June 05, 2014

CFBA: A Place in His Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

Guys! i just got this in the mail on Monday-- but I am halfway done. Okay. So we're close.  So close. I'll have a real review for you shortly.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Place in His Heart

Revell (June 3, 2014)


Rebecca DeMarino


Rebecca DeMarino was born in Pensacola, Florida, the daughter of a Navy pilot. Her mother made a home for the family of six all over the map, including Virginia, Nevada, California, Washington, and Guam, before her parents put down anchor on a ranch in Oregon.

As the wife of a young Air Force officer, married life brought more travel. She relied on her mother’s example of how to make a home anywhere. Her three beautiful daughters were born in Florida, Alaska and Nebraska.

Retired after sixteen years with a major airline, she manages to fulfill her love of wanderlust with frequent family or research trips.

Rebecca grew up listening to her mother’s family lore of a great-grandfather from generations ago. Barnabas Horton sailed from England in the 1600’s, to Long Island, N.Y., on a ship called The Swallow. In 1999, after she found Horton Point, L.I., on a map, Rebecca and her mother made the journey to see the lighthouse named after their ancestor.

The legend goes that Barnabas brought a slab of blue slate with him from England, and had the epitaph he wrote himself engraved on it. The blue slate still exists in the Old Cemetery in Southold, L.I., with the Bible verse, “He being dead, still speaketh.” Much information was found about Barnabas, but none of his wife, save a mention in his will.

Her mother passed away in 2005, but Rebecca returned to Southold many times, drawn by her Puritan roots and English heritage. Each time she wondered about her ninth great-grandmother, a young woman who married a widower with two young boys and then followed them for the wilds of Long Island, leaving behind her home and family. What were her dreams? Her motivations? Her fears?

Rebecca’s historical romance novel, A PLACE IN HIS HEART, debuts with Revell, a division of Baker Publishing House, in June of 2014.


Anglican Mary Langton longs to marry for love. Puritan Barnabas Horton is still in love with his deceased wife and needs only a mother for his two young sons. And yet these two very different people with very different expectations will take a leap of faith, wed, and then embark on a life-changing journey across the ocean to the Colonies. Along the way, each must learn to live in harmony, to wait on God, and to recognize true love where they least expect to find it.

This heartfelt tale of love and devotion is based on debut author Rebecca DeMarino's own ancestors, who came to Long Island in the mid-1600s to establish a life--and a legacy--in the New World.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of A Place in His Heart, go HERE.

Rebecca is hosting a Giveaway worth over $300.00 in prizes.  There will be 8 winners! Scroll to the bottom of the post
HERE to enter!!!!!

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

Gah! I loved Paris Letters because it is almost too good to be true and face it – you cannot pull this off and neither can I---but Janice MacLeod did. 
 Did she ever ….

And she's Canadian! yay!

She smartly quit her job after saving and selling and being really pragmatic and wonderful and figured out how to travel for a year

She was really going to prepare to spend a lot of time with two guys named Sandro and Marco ( one of whom is a bodyguard to the Pope!!!! How does she live this life?) in Italy; but got major sidetracked in Paris with a cute Amelie-type love story with a dashing butcher named Christoph.  You. Will. Die.   It is the most perfect meet-cute-avec-language-barrier ever and when they finally meet your little heart will pitter patter and when he meets her at her window every night at 8:30 you will think that it is something out of Gigi and …seriously! Best life ever .

She really has it. The best life.

But she also is incredibly talented.  To the point of being sickening.  The job she left was in advertising so we know she is savvy with words and the Etsy-inspired life she made for herself in Paris wrought the gorgeous Paris Letters: artfully crafted vignettes of the city accompanied by her water colours.   To add, she is a brilliant writer. Brilliant. Witty. Insightful.   Skip Eat Pray Love and its vague mystical wisdom on finding spiritual sustenance and hang out with MacLeod for a while. You will be glad you did.

She is funny and romantic and sees everything with fresh eyes. She walks. She eats. She engages.  She stumbles over foreign languages and yet is drawn to cultures. She is an introvert who puts on her “big girl” pants and steps outside of herself to engage with other humans. She is an artist. In every sense of the word

She is underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa and is brave enough to admit it.    She admits to traveler fatigue and cannot take another museum ( we have all been there; but we just wanna be cool. I remember a wonderful ramble a few years ago along the Liffey in Dublin when my brother and I –who were out tracking down Oscar Wilde everywhere --- admitted neither of us particularly enjoyed art galleries) and she is traipses forward: a sponge absorbing the weather, the customs, the architecture and never for one moment taking for granted her brilliant opportunity.  

Side note:  I am not speaking to Elizabeth Gilbert here so much as Elizabeth Gilbert as Portrayed by Julia Roberts.  That character in the movie drove me nuts. She gave up on her marriage, it seemed, engaged in an affair ---which didn’t work out and when the men in her life somehow no longer fit the piece to her complicated (whiny) puzzle she high tailed it off to live an outrageously wonderful existence in Italy with lots of pizza and the biggest problem of her life being she went up a size and had to buy new jeans.   The movie character drove me bonkers.  You will not find that here. Janice is awesome and level-headed. She will be your friend.

She will  be your friend.  She gives you deep and intimate insight into her failures and trials and triumphs. You will learn her flaws and giggle with her at them and you will learn her strengths and want to strive to have the same deft way of expressing new experiences and the same insight with which to observe and record people as she has.

When she finally takes the plunge and returns to Paris ( after stops in the UK and another stop in Italy to eat gelato with Marco. Le Sigh ) she finds love with the adorable Christoph –even as they still have to hurdle the language barrier and communication between them becomes far more than mere words.  They make a relationship work without always being able to understand.  That type of dedication speaks of a love so many people avoid erring on having to resound their side… their right… on ensuring they hear the sound of their own voice as they express their own platitudes.   It is sweet and frustrating for the reader and beguiling.   And, the best part, REAL LIFE.

I am someone who often believe romance evades us mere mortals and we are safest to find it between the pages of a novel --- but in MacLeod’s case: this is sheer kismet. Bliss.

She still updates her blog and you can see her past Paris Letters and subscribe here   (also pics of her adorable Polish Parisienne and their adorable wedding )

And then… the quotes…. The quotes, people.  These are things you just want to Pinterest the heck out of :

"I was already ratcheting down on friendships from the outer circle of my social sphere. I knew I would be leaving Los Angeles. It would make slipping out the back door easier."

"After I had peeled the bland Eucharist off the roof of my mouth and Quasimodo rang out the last bells of mass..."

"now I'm not one to go out on a limb and meet people. I'm introverted and crowds exhaust me. But sometimes you have to be the grown-up of your life and tell your inner child, who is kicking and screaming, "Get your shoes on! This is not optional! We have a play date""

"Christophe and I lived in the present, which is the only tense in French I could muddle through with a modicum of success. As we walked, I would look for scenes to photograph. he would look at me. During this time, I felt freer than before. I was just Janice in Paris."

"In his arms, I was in an eternal space where I craved to be forever. A man's love. I got it. I really got it. For two weeks, I really got what I hadn't been getting until this beautiful creature showed me. he never, ever kept me guessing. He never, ever kept me waiting. He always showed up."

"Janice, the only way to find happiness is to find people with whom you can eat, drink and laugh. That is all. That is everything."

"For them, work is a way to afford life" (she speaks of Italians) "...but not a definition of who you are".

"By the time I reached Venice, I could do nothing but sigh from exhaustion. Luckily, I was in good company. The entire city of Venice seemed like it was sighing, as if it was also tired of holding itself together. With the coming and going of tides, the pastel buildings slowly rose and sank from the verdant watery grave. "

"Christophe was the only man I dated with whom I could not contort my own personality to create his fantasy girl, simply because I didn't have the language skills with which to do so."

"He had even purchased matching robes, explaining that we should feel like we were on vacation all the time. And he had bought and assembled new furniture, including a wardrobe."

"Paris does something to a person. It unleashes the pent-up romantic."

On Christophe understanding her Paris letters enterprise: "It's for joy." He got it. "Oui. Mail for joy."

On rose: "I considered it wine-lite. It was sweet, cold and... did I mention sweet? And after a few sips, there was a sense that this grape Kool-aid was a bit"

"We must each know how to design our lives. We are all artists and each day is a canvas."

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Book Confessions

I was chatting with Rissi, Kara and Jamie on twitter and they had done this, so I stole it

(with the exception of "picture of your bookshelf thingy; because I cannot CHOOSE a favourite. Last night i was kinda tied between my Patrick O'Brian sea-faring shelf, my Sherlockiana and my LM Montgomery scholarship. They are all special ).

super excited with books!!!!

What are your top three book pet hates?

1.) Italicized prayers: in CBA fiction when there is a break in narrative to have the character thinking a prayer, noted by italics--- often it seems forced and often silly ( are you really praying for God to help you find feminine hygiene products in the work bathroom) and often it is the tell-tale sign of a book that is not organically a faith journey; rather a secular book that with the inclusion of a few throwaway prayers is targeted to the Christian market

2.) Love triangles: like, serious love triangles. Not the heroine or hero naturally finding themselves attracted to a person clearly wrong for them as they undergo a journey toward the person they are meant to be with.

3.) Children: precocious children with childish dialect to emulate the way a toddler talks. URGH

Describe your perfect reading spot

As I mentioned to Anne Mateer here, I can read anywhere. I do like reading in coffee shops or outside (in philosopher's walk in Toronto), I read on the subway to work every morning, I read in bed a lot every night and I love reading with a glass of wine or a pint on a patio (now that it's summer ) or curled near a fireplace in the winter. I have a few favourite pubs in my city I frequent. One in cabbagetown, One near the Elgin theatre and a few in the West End. I am a nomad reader. I got a massive sunburn reading by the river in Etienne Brule park last weekend.

Tell us three book confessions.

1.) I don't really like first person present unless it is super well written (holla, Christa Parrish)

2.) I have trouble embracing books that have become super big or popular --and that it is the "Thing" to read. I am wary of them

3.) It will take a lot for me to read a book that only has four or five stars on amazon. Honestly, if there is not some variance of opinion it cannot have sparked debate and if it hasn't sparked debate or variance of opinion, it might just be too rosy-coloured for me.

When was the last time you cried during a book?

I was reading an author friend's yet-unpublished (SHAME) manuscript over the weekend and I bawled.

How many books are on your bedside table?

A Place in His Heart

Paris Letters

the galley of Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Saving Amelie

Washington's Spies

What is your favorite snack while you’re reading?

I drink copious amounts of tea. I like microwave popcorn or jelly bellys. I live by myself so I often eat dinner while reading

Name three books you would recommend to everyone.

This is hard. But here are three books that during my long and established career as a bookseller really garnered the most enthusiasm:

1.) Deafening by Frances Itani

2.) The Blooding of Jack Absolute by CC Humphreys

3.) That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan

and, of course, I recommend Horatio Lyle and the Blue Castle to every kindred spirit....

What is your biggest reading secret?

I will give every author two chances. Just in case there was a book of theirs that didn't sit with me, I wasn't in the mood, or the subject matter was off. After that, nope. Strike out ;)

Monday, June 02, 2014

Litfuse Blog Tour: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

From the publisher:  Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way
about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood.

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade continues in the author's tradition of compelling character-driven contemporary romantic fiction with strong faith themes.  It begins with wide-eyed Celia living it up in Las Vegas making a rash and hasty decision to marry her high school crush, Ty Porter.
The next morning, however, after a whirlwind ceremony and a night in each other's arms, Ty leaves Celia: unknowing that she carries his child. 

Years later, Celia is raising her adorable daughter Addie to be a strong and independent female: tweaking Disney princess stories to capitalize on attributes that Addie must learn in order to be a model citizen (easily one of the best aspects of the novel --- "Or, if the girls preferred jeans and sweat shirts, then that was fine too. Aurora respects individuality. All the girls were allowed to go into the fabulous castle gardens and pick flowers and make themselves bouquets" ) and Ty waltzes back into her life again: with the same chiseled jaw and sparkling eyes. This time, intent to win her back. 

There are a dozen ways this would have gone wrong under the guidance of an amateur pen: but Wade's writing shone above the conventions of the genre.  To begin, The lost-love-reunited-pursuit thread one sees in several romances is deftly explored on both sides of the spectrum.  To my delight, both Celia and Ty, realistically flawed, edge toward the commonalities that enticed them to each other at the beginning of the story. The yin and the yang. 

What stands out most is the attention to character development and change. Celia is rightly embittered towards Ty but ploughs through the harsh soil of forgiveness to reach an understanding. Ty, on the other hand, realizes it will take more than buying pink cowgirl boots for his daughter and securing an automobile for his wife for her to slink over to his side .

And it works. It works because there is enough subtlety peppered throughout to flavour a believable relationship: Celia's worry over Ty's well-being, Ty going out of his way to help her ill uncle, a few stubborn pet-names the years have yet to wear off...

I didn’t want to like Ty Porter. In fact, I was looking forward to seethingly hating him. He was absolutely what I despise in men: the perfect cookie-cutter cowboy. To add, he left the heroine flat and dry (and pregnant) after marrying her and capitalizing on her love for him.  Then, he had the audacity to show up again and think that he could weasel his way back. HARUMPH!

....But something in the story softened me to Ty: it wasn’t his willingness to sacrifice for the family he so longed to forge together or the money he used from the rodeo circuit to buy moments of comfort for his ex-wife and his adorable little Addie.

Oh Addie.  Honestly, so many child characters are gratingly precocious, but Wade ( perhaps because she has first-hand experience with young children ;) ) does a great job here.... and it is a good thing; because Addie is central to the revitalization of her parents' hearts and subsequently their reunion.  I had a bit of a conversation with Becky Wade about this on Facebook.  I mentioned that what strikes me as the ultimate in wonderful here is that it balances Addies's inclusion in the romance well. She is part of the "meet cute part II" when Ty  and Celia reunite and in the development of a relationship that merely budded before and is now given time to flourish.  She is so integral to the story and her progression, like everything here, is so natural.  It seems organic and there's enough left-over attraction between Ty and Celia that Addies' involvement is not only the central glue, it is what sparks them re-evaluate their relationship.  Addie propels them to both step out of their comfort zone and embark on the pivotal changes that steer their relationship into the next chapter.  She inspires them to let their guards down and embrace the child-like vulnerability and joy they see in her as well as ruminate on the central values that she forces them to think about: needing to be surprised and delighted, birthday parties and pony rides, play, lessons, needing care and needing home.

Meant to be Mine uses popular romantic tropes to explore the power of reticent forgiveness--- and it does so successfully.